This TikToker Revealed The Unexpected Ingredient That Makes "The Juiciest Chicken You Will Ever Have" (And After Tasting It Myself, It's Definitely Not An Exaggeration)

Amidst the hysterical-yet-baffling chaos of the FDA warning Americans not to cook their chicken in NyQuil (based on a TikTok "trend" that actually never existed), one real chicken hack has been steadily making its rounds on the app. This one, however, sounds objectively more delicious than cough medicine-poached chicken, and it involves a simple marinade using a pretty common fruit.

Screenshot of a TikTok video
Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

In his viral video, TikToker Elliott Norris (aka @callmebelly) reveals "the key to the juiciest chicken you will ever have." The key, in this instance, is a literal kiwi. And according to Elliott, it "melts in your mouth."

Screenshot of Elliott's TikTok video
Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

While kiwi might not be the first ingredient you think of when it comes to a chicken marinade, there's actually a whole lot of science behind why this method works as well as it does.

"I learned about this technique this past summer in Tunisia," Elliott told BuzzFeed. "I was staying with my best friend's family, and her father explained that there are many fruits that contain different enzymes that help to tenderize meats."

Produce market in Tunisia

Kiwi trees are common in Tunisia, according to Elliott, which makes them an easy choice in this particular context.

Fethi Belaid / AFP via Getty Images

As Elliott noted, other plants also have the ability to tenderize meats. The same could be said for pineapple, figs, papaya, and even ginger. Basically — and not to get too sciencey on you — any plant containing proteolytic enzymes has the ability to break down proteins.

CBS / Via giphy.com

In the human body, these enzymes are considered anti-inflammatory and can break down the proteins involved in both swelling and pain. It's why people swear by drinking pineapple juice before getting their wisdom teeth removed. The proteolytic enzyme present in pineapple, bromelain, is said to reduce swelling and discomfort post-surgery — but I should also note that there's not really enough evidence out there to support that claim.

Outside of our bodies, however, these enzymes have the ability to tenderize animal proteins by breaking down connective tissues (and there are plenty of studies out there that'll send you down a rabbit hole or two if you're curious about how exactly it works).

Actinidin, the enzyme within kiwi, is actually one of the most efficient meat tenderizers out there since it's highly active at room temperature, which can't be said for the proteolytic enzymes present in all other fruits. The ultimate effect, Elliott told BuzzFeed, is said to be similar to that of buttermilk on chicken, which is a popular marinade here in America: soft, velvety meat that just so happens to be super juicy, too.

Elliott with his plate of chicken

If you're worried about "dessert chicken," don't worry. Elliott addresses this concern in his video, mentioning that your chicken "won't be sweet or sour."

Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

As someone who will do everything in his power to fight Boring Chicken Syndrome — a term coined by yours truly at this very moment — I knew I had to test this out in my own kitchen. Ultimately, I realized that it's a pretty foolproof way to amp up the flavor and texture of your chicken, and the simplicity of the ingredients involved was just the cherry on top.

While we're on the subject of ingredients, let's talk about them. Here's what you'll need to make kiwi-marinated chicken. (And BTW, this amount of chicken will serve about four people.)

Ingredients for chicken

Some important aspects to note: I used a kiwi-to-chicken ratio of about one kiwi for every pound of chicken. With just over a pound of chicken, I found that one kiwi produced the perfect amount of marinade.

In his video, Elliott uses a cut-up chicken breast because he "wanted the marinade to really tenderize every piece," he told BuzzFeed. I ended up using thin-sliced chicken breast pieces for simplicity's sake, and they also seemed to take the marinade nicely, so use what you have available. Just keep your chicken pieces on the smaller or thinner side so they can reach maximum tenderness.

Ross Yoder

When it comes to your seasonings, the sky's the limit. I used a garlic sea salt blend and some cracked black pepper, but you can swap in anything you'd like, as long as salt is included in the mix. Paprika or Italian seasoning would both be great choices, or you could even use a simple poultry spice blend of your choosing.

STEP #1: Use a spoon to scoop the kiwi flesh from the brown skin...

Elliott's TikTok
Ross Yoder / Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

...and then give it a good mash with a fork. You'll want to do this in a bowl large enough to hold your chicken.

Ross Yoder

(It'll look something like this when it's done.)

Mashed kiwi
Ross Yoder

STEP #2: Add in the seasonings of your choosing (don't forget the salt!) and one tablespoon of olive oil. Give everything a mix until it's fully combined.

Mixed ingredients
Ross Yoder / Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

STEP #3: Evenly coat your chicken in the kiwi marinade.

Chicken coated in kiwi marinade

Touching chicken with bare hands usually gives me the ick, but since this marinade is on the thicker side, I found that using my hands to evenly coat each piece of chicken was the best way to make sure everything was distributed nicely.

Ross Yoder / Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

STEP #4: Cover with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap, then allow it to sit in your refrigerator for at least one hour, per the instructions in Elliott's video.

Chicken marinating in a bowl

Elliott told BuzzFeed that he's had great success with only an hour of marinating, at minimum, and that it's been more than enough for the kiwi enzymes to work their magic. I opted for exactly two hours, and it worked beautifully. But keep in mind: Acidic marinades like this one can actually toughen the meat or break it down into literal mush if you leave it to marinate for too long. I know, science is wild. That said, I'd advise you to not let your kiwi-marinated chicken sit for too long — and definitely not overnight.

Ross Yoder

STEP #5: Once your chicken has marinated, let it rest for 20 minutes on your counter to bring it to room temperature. Then, cook it using your preferred method. I pan-seared mine, as Elliott did in his video, but I think you'd have delicious results on the grill or in an air fryer, too.

Someone putting oil on a pan
Ross Yoder

If you're pan-searing your chicken, add a decent drizzle of olive oil to your skillet before placing it over medium-high heat. Once your skillet is hot, sear the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side or until both sides are browned and the centers register at 165ºF using an instant-read thermometer.

Chicken cooking in a skillet

Some of the sweet kiwi marinade might end up charring a bit in your skillet (or on your grill), but fear not! The browned bits will actually end up adding great flavor to your chicken, and it won't impart any sort of burnt taste.

Ross Yoder

THE FINAL STEP: It's an annoying one, I know, but let your chicken rest for 5-10 minutes. We're going for optimal juiciness here, so letting it rest on a cutting board will allow the juices to redistribute through the chicken before you cut it, and it makes a MASSIVE difference. Trust me on this one.

Cooked chicken
Ross Yoder / Elliott Norris / Via tiktok.com

That's all! When you're ready to serve your kiwi chicken, slice it up. And if you used cut-up breast meat, like Elliott did, you can also leave it whole. The choice is yours.

Sliced chicken
Ross Yoder

THE VERDICT: I don't quite know what I was expecting, but this kiwi chicken absolutely blew me away.

Ross showing his kiwi-marinated chicken
Ross Yoder

When I first watched Elliott's viral TikTok, I admittedly chuckled at the "melt in your mouth" description. I mean, it's just chicken? But after trying it for myself, it's honestly the perfect descriptor. The meat itself was pleasantly soft and not even the slightest bit tough. And the juiciness? Out of control! It delivered results that were very comparable to a buttermilk-marinated chicken — but with much, much better flavor.

Someone holding up sliced chicken

While a buttermilk marinade is mostly about texture and not flavor, this kiwi marinade over-delivered on both fronts. As Elliott mentioned, you won't end up with fruity-tasting chicken. The garlic salt imparted a wonderful punch of flavor to each and every bite, but I was particularly obsessed with the very subtle, hardly-detectable sweetness from the kiwi itself. I'd never call this chicken sweet, but the tiny bit of natural sweetness going on contrasts so nicely with all the other savory flavors. You end up with a surprisingly complex and uniquely delicious flavor profile — especially considering the fact that you only need a handful of ingredients to make it in the first place.

Ross Yoder

I, for one, am thrilled to have come across Elliott's TikTok in the first place. And honestly? I think I may have found my new go-to chicken marinade.

If you try this kiwi-marinated chicken for yourself, let me know what you think of it in the comments below. 👇

And if you'd like to keep up with Elliott for more cooking tips and recipes, you can follow him on TikTok and Instagram.